In business, finding a “secret sauce” in a given niche can be the difference between being successful and barely making ends meet. Given that competitive advantages are often hard to come by and may take considerable time and effort, it behooves a business owner to keep them secret.
The advantages that are unique to a given business are often referred to as trade secrets. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 refers to a trade secret as any confidential plan, formula, pattern, program device, technique, code, or collection of information that, once released, could potentially benefit a business.
The release of a trade secret could occur through someone memorizing it, taking it electronically, or physically taking the contents. Trade secrets are not copyrighted or patented but rather are kept confidential by the owner of a business or very few individuals close to them.
What Happens if Someone Steals a Trade Secret?
If a trade secret is stolen, the owner of the company can take several actions.
- Request an injunction. If the owner requests an injunction, it means the court is ordering the party that took the trade secret to cease any further disclosure of the information.
- Seek financial reimbursement. Suppose the owner feels they have already suffered a financial loss due to the trade secret being stolen. In that case, they can seek financial reimbursement that would cover any losses that their business incurred due to competition or otherwise.
While it is reasonable that a business owner is able to protect their trade secrets to keep their competitive advantage, it is possible that someone competes with them without stealing a trade secret. This can occur when someone makes a similar product or offers a similar service but may have figured out the “secret” component without stealing the information. Instead, the new business owner simply engineered their version on their own. This is not against the law, and the original owner would have no path to action in this scenario.
Examples of Stolen Trade Secrets
There are trade secrets that can be stolen through various means in multiple industries. Given that the information is not patented, proving that it was stolen often comes down to accessing information and proof in the product or service.
Examples of trade secrets that can provoke legal action when stolen include:
- Customer lists that are unique to the company
- Proprietary website code
- Independent contractor that enters into a contract but later sells information elsewhere
- Proprietary marketing strategies
- Unique construction plans for a property
- Ingredients for a specific product
Trade Secrets Attorney in Milwaukee
Suppose a business has a trade secret stolen or is being accused of stealing a trade secret. In that case, it’s important to get a trade secrets attorney in Milwaukee involved right away. Kerkman & Dunn has staff that is versed in trade secret litigation and can help businesses settle disagreements surrounding trade secrets. Call 414-277-8200 today to talk to an attorney about your case, or fill out a form on this page.